Have you ever noticed that no matter how often or how long you stretch for, certain muscles always still feel tight?
Well, there’s a reason for this that stretching alone won’t help.
Here’s the thing…
Certain muscles have a tendency to stay “on” for three reasons:
For protective tension
Because they’re continuously being overworked
Or a combination of both
What you must understand is that our joints need stability in order to function properly, and our body will do whatever it needs to do to provide our joints with that stability. Often compensations cause certain muscles to weaken and/or stop being used for certain functions and actions. As a result, other muscles will take over and/or our movement patterns will be altered. While using stretching strategies can help decrease muscle tension, the effect is very short lived – because you’ve done nothing to reinforce the mobility that has been created to restore your movement pattern(s).
You need to appreciate that if you’re not careful, aggressive stretching can result in over-stretching ligaments vs. stretching muscle fibres, which can cause further instability in your joints and lead to more compensations.
Your hip flexors are a classic example of this.
Certain muscles that flex your hips become over-active due to a weak anterior core, poor posture and/or certain movement mechanics. Too much sitting can further add to these problems. As a result of chronic tension in these muscles you can lose the ability to come into full hip extension… along with a host of other things that I won’t get into right now. This can quickly escalate and cause a reduction in glute activation and many people will start to substitute back extension (arching their lower backs) to compensate for a lack of hip extension, all of which tends to result in stress on your lower back.
What’s the number one thing people do if the front of their hips feel tight?
They stretch… and most people stretch in a way that only reinforces their compensations.
What do you need to do instead?
It’s simple: lengthen your affected muscles, and reinforce their mobility protocol with some anterior core and glute activation.
In the video below, the second, fourth and fifth exercises do just that. All three of these exercises will help lengthen you hip’s flexing musculature in an active and functional range, while improving movement patterning and facilitating proper load sharing—so that your muscles can stabilize and effectively produce joint movement.
Here is a list of the core exercises demo’d in the video above, and how they benefit your body:
All of these core exercises have a mobility component that is directly reinforced by your complimentary stability muscles. The benefit of this is that you will strengthen your muscles while you lengthen them, which is important if you’re exposing a joint to a range of motion it hasn’t experienced in a while. Another great thing about this method is that it gives you a productive way to ensure that you achieve lasting improvements; which is something I think we all want.
Exercise 1: Turkish Get Ups
Get Ups help improve shoulder and hip mobility and stability in a variety of planes of motion. In addition, they improve energy transfer, core strength, and—when you’re able to tolerate more load—are also an effective total body strengthening exercise.
Exercise 2: 1/2 Kneel to Split Stance with Pallof
These will help improve your hip flexor mobility while simultaneously activating your glutes, obliques and anterior core.
Exercise 3: Leg Lower with Core Engagement
This core exercise helps lengthen your hamstrings while activating your core. This one’s a must if you have tight hamstrings 😉
Exercise 4: Bridge with Band-Resisted Hip Flexion
This core exercise will help address any hip flexion dysfunction you may have by recruiting your psaos (a hip flexor that is often overpowered by your glutes). This exercise also simultaneously activates the glute of your base leg as you come into good hip extension.
Exercise 5: Dying Bug with Pullover and Crunch
This core exercise is another patterning one that will help address hip flexion dysfunction. This one differs from the rest because it also requires stabilization of your rib cage, which if done properly will enable you to simultaneously lengthen through your lats.
Okay there you have it. Those are 5 core exercises that will help increase your mobility while strengthening your abdominal muscles.
If you have any questions about any of the exercises demonstrated in this video, or questions about your mobility in general, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also be happy to get you in for a free movement assessment if that’s something that interests you.